Speed to Salvation: I Hear Your Voice by Kim Young-ha

  • onOctober 26, 2014
  • Vol.16 Summer 2012
  • byKim Dongshik
I Hear Your Voice

Kim Young-ha, a major figure in Korean literature, is back. Kim has been on sojourn in New York, writing and speaking to readers through his podcast, “Reading Time.” The title of his new work is I Hear Your Voice, after the song by Deli Spice, a Korean indie band. The work depicts a world after the apocalypse in the Book of Revelation.

October 28, 1992, is the day pegged by eschatologists as the day of rapture. No rapture takes place on that day, however, but a child is born in a bathroom at an express bus terminal. The child, named “J,” grows up in an orphanage. Growing up, he comes to realize that he has the ability to sense other people’s pain. At age 16 he moves to Seoul, and comes to experience the horrific life of teenage runaways. J then wanders alone from place to place in the city living on uncooked rice, reading books he’s picked up off the street, and meditating. With an increasing following of teenage runaways, J plans an all-out speeding spree as the leader of a biker gang. During the spree, J meets his death during a collision with the cops, and the cops and the bikers witness J’s literal ascension.

J is a modern day Jesus who speeds on a bike. As the work implies, today’s society tries to systematically manage even religious salvation and political revolution. In that sense, J’s speeding is a ritual that confirms there’s still a possibility of change in the world: “Riding a bike is like making thick, powerful brush strokes on the city streets.” Through J, the writer asks: Where is the possibility of liberation? The author suggests that listening to the voices of others is a kind of ethics of the day, something that rings true throughout the book. 




Author's Profile

The English editions of Kim Young-ha’s I Have the Right to Destroy MyselfYour Republic Is Calling You, and Black Flower were published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who will also publish his latest book in 2017. Kim was a resident writer at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program in 2003, and a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times from 2013 to 2014. His books have appeared in more than twelve languages.